Let’s admit it. It’s noisy out there.
Between the constant phone notifications, scrolling through the opinions on your various social media feeds and the threat-level news cycles – it can be pretty distracting, not to mention overwhelming.
On the surface these distractions might feel trivial in most cases; I mean, it only takes a few minutes to respond to a text and check an email or get that Amazon delivery from the door (other marketplaces are available!), but when you start incorporating the "lost" time, the minutes it takes your brain to regain its focus on your initial task can rack up.
According to a study from the University of California-Irvine, returning to your original focus, following a distraction, takes, on average, a full 23 minutes and 15 seconds.
But don’t despair. Science shows that we are meant to be distracted.
Research from Princeton University and the University of California-Berkeley who studied Macaque monkeys and humans discovered that attention pulses in and out four times per second.
“Every 250 milliseconds, you have an opportunity to switch attention,” says Ian Fiebelkorn, an associate research scholar in PNI and the first author on the macaque-focused paper. “You won’t necessarily shift your focus to a new subject but your brain has a chance to re-examine your priorities and decide if it wants to.”
Reading this, you might be thinking – that’s it, I’m doomed! But attention being fluid is actually a good thing. It’s an evolutionary trait, where your brain takes the time every few minutes to check in on its environment and allocate resources where it perceives the ‘threat’ to be.
And whilst the brain has our best interests at heart, it doesn’t serve you well when you have a mountain of work to get through.
If you want to experience more focus in your life, first of all, start by getting some clarity on the things that distract you.
✅ In your working environment?
✅ On your mobile, laptop/computer?
✅ In your head?
With this list, it becomes easier to create some solutions.
Taking some time with these thoughts and making them happen can ensure that your brain keeps up with what you want to focus on.
Once you’ve determined the distractions, here are a few strategies that you can implement to maintain that focus within your to-do list:
Step one: write a to-do list.
Step two: Ditch it.
Step 3: Hang on…what?
Spending most of your time picking up tasks on your to-do list can be counterproductive.
I’m talking about admin-type tasks, those seemingly urgent actions that build up throughout the day or responding to other people's agendas. Making your to-do list a priority over and above activities that require some ‘deep work’ and drive impact in your life, can leave you feeling frustrated and stuck.
If we follow the theory that we are essentially creatures of distraction, your to-do list may become an excuse to avoid taking actions that lead you towards your goals. It becomes way too easy to move on to the next task and the next. This can mean that the to-do list starts to control you and you never really complete anything of real impact.
To avoid letting your to-do list control YOU, start with this simple daily action.
Choose just one thing you can complete each day that moves your career, business, or personal growth forward. Think ‘impact’.
This should be small and easy enough to be achievable.
Once you achieve it, make sure you celebrate it (give yourself a high-five, do a little shimmy). This little action can help the brain understand if this task was worth the effort, and the shot of dopamine will prime your brain to do the same thing tomorrow.
Once you consistently start to achieve a simple activity like this each day, you will start to shift the balance from your ‘to-do’ list to the activities that really matter and create the habit of focusing on your impact.
Here’s another strategy you can use to cut through the noise.
The Focus Funnel is a simple model that draws on a range of strategies to overcome the following challenges:
Work on your Mindset 🧠
➡️ Develop a healthy balance between a pessimistic and optimistic mindset
Improve your Interest 🎉
➡️ Ask daily questions that prime your brain to increase interest and motivation
Ease and Flow ☀️
➡️ Practise behaviours and activities that establish flow
Find and Create Clarity 💡
➡️ Set up your environment to support clarity of mind
Finding focus isn’t some elusive skill. It’s all about practice and modelling a life that encourages focus.
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